A Melbourne Rendezvous...

Words by Dorian Mode and photography by Lydia Thorpe

The Rendezvous Hotel, built in 1913 as the Commercial Travellers Club

We are thrilled to be back in groovy Melbourne. For this weekend sojourn, we stay at the Rendezvous Hotel. Built in 1913 as the Commercial Travellers Club, this heritage-listed hotel has been refurbished and retains the ambience of the Edwardian period throughout its immaculate guestrooms and grand suites. The Rendezvous ticks all the boxes for us, with its hip amalgam of historic stained-glass exteriors and high spec tasteful interiors with all the modern technologies. Not to mention robes and slippers and other comfy hotel treats.
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians 9:4.
“And tell the porter I want one of your columns in my room”

Mrs Pictures’ jaw drops to the plush carpet as we enter our suite. Not since our digs at the Beacon in Manhattan, have we experienced such an amalgam of taste and historic luxury. Our suite, with its balcony overlooking historic Flinders St Station, is all muted tones, with fat olive curtains as tall as mainsails, chic glazed pots, all perfectly lit from cavernous ceilings. In the corner of our suite I spy a Corinthian column, revealing the hotel’s provenance, as our suite was originally the dining room of the aforementioned Commercial Travellers Club. And although we are opposite the main train terminus in the city, noise is tempered by tall double-glazed doors. Everything in our suite has been planned for our luxury and comfort.
The bathroom is all Hollywood glamour and the room, artfully partitioned, houses a king-sized bed and posh linen that invites you to flop backwards and smile, as if scuba plunging from the stern of a dive-boat. The room is so lush we spend more time than we would in a hotel room.

the hotel’s centrepiece: the Art Nouveau Grand Dome

Wrapped in scarves like hijabs, we brave the Melbourne winter evening and descend the grand oak staircase to stand beneath the hotel’s centrepiece: the Art Nouveau Grand Dome. However, at the first floor, our descent is blocked by a cadre of siliconed blondes in towering heels. It’s like the casting for Love Island, I think. And seniors, guess what? It’s the casting for Love Island. A producer hands me a clipboard and quizzes me. “Are you here for the casting?”
“I’ve been married 30 years. I’m already cast in the production of Tolerated Acceptance Island”. She looks at me blankly as we squeeze through the silicone and into the chill of the Melbourne night.
God, we love Melbourne! It’s the dead of winter and the streets are a hive of people looking for cool bars and good vibes. We find ours in one of the iconic Melbourne laneways aptly named Highland Lane, where a Scottish-themed bar beckons. It’s only 4pm but it’s Melbourne’s Happy Hour. So, at $5 a throw, we re-enact that iconic Ealling Comedy, Whiskey Galore. We are the oldest people in the bar, as Frank croons, “Young at Heart”. Later that evening, staggering from the whiskies, we dine early at the posh, Taxi Kitchen. It’s all louvred windows and stainless steel. This upmarket restaurant, overlooking the Yarra, impresses with its Asian-infused traditional cuisine. Mrs Pictures has the porterhouse while I devour the tender lamb shoulder: a choir of angles crying on your tongue.

Melbourne is famous for it’s cool lane-way bars

Against that Melbourne backdrop of the ship’s bell clang of the trams, and the clip-clop of the hairy draft horses ferrying Asian tourists around chilly city streets, we rendezvous as Rendezvous, sated and content to watch telly in our stylish suite. By chance the same Love Island producer meets us in the stunning wooden-panelled lift of the historic hotel. “You’re back early”. My wife and I exchange furtive glances. I look at my watch. It’s 8:30. I feel shame. “We’re old,” I smile weakly. “And from Sydney.” However, back in time for Graham Norton, I think, rubbing my fingerless gloved hands like Fagin.

Typical scene along the Yarra River in Melbourne

The following morning, we breakfast downstairs at the hotel. It’s an excellent breakfast with lashings of home-cooked bacon and Paris-worthy pastries, all as light as helium. But we come to Melbourne for one thing: killer coffee. Post-bacon, we thread our way to Melbourne’s iconic Hardware Lane – only a 10 min stroll from Rendezvous in sensible shoes. Here we are shepherded to a table by a restaurant tout in a pea-coat, to enjoy a Melbourne coffee, ‘alfreshco’. Over coffee, a girl approaches our table selling home-made beanies. How very Melbourne. Sans beanie, we stroll back to the hotel, wired from toe-curling Melbourne coffee. I catch my reflection in a shop window and think about the Love Island casting. I would look like crap in Speedos, I nod to my reflection.

A girl sells home made beanies in Hardware Lane

Flanking the Rendezvous Hotel is the Immigration Museum. Housed in the erstwhile Customs House building ($15 p.p.), this thoughtfully curated museum punches above its weight; with interactive displays and hip curation. My wife and I are the children of British migrants. So, it’s rather moving to interview (via video installation) a family desperate to migrate from Britain to Australia. We had to reject them of course. Those terrible post-war British teeth.

Try the Immigration Museum for something totally different

Later that evening, with a gang of Melbourne chums, we hit Paris Cat Jazz club to catch an early show, before dining in the flanking street at Max’s at Hardware Lane. Even these rugged-up Mexicans are rather proud of their chic city, as Hardware Lane, with its red-bricked pavers, buskers, and alfresco aesthetic, resembles any street in Paris or Berlin.
As we check out of our gorgeous suite, we take one last lean over the balcony to see bustling Flinders St below. We both wish we could stay for another day but our uber awaits. Perhaps I could rethink that audition for Love Island, post Light & Easy.

CHECK OUT THIS DEAL:

Stay & Dine Package – Rendezvous Melbourne from $199 per night.
Inclusions:
Overnight accommodation

  • 2 Course dinner per person served at Strait Café on the first night.
  • A complimentary bottle of wine per stay served with your dinner at Strait Cafe
  • Free cancellation up until 2pm one day before arrival
  • Additional charges apply for extra guest.  Bedding configuration is subject to availability.